Glancing over my shoulder, I saw that Josie had stopped beside one of the many stone benches. “My father was a half.”
“I know that.” She touched a pink flower. “But did you know him?”
I turned and walked back to where she stood. Talking about my parents was the last thing I wanted, but if that was what Josie wanted to talk about, that was what I would do. Part of me figured she was focusing on it so she wasn’t thinking about what she had just gone through.
“My father wasn’t a Sentinel or Guard. He was a servant here.” Taking her hand, I threaded my fingers through hers. “He worked outside, on the grounds. He was never on the elixir. But even if he had been, I doubt it would’ve stopped her.” Disgust filled me. “She didn’t care if someone was of sound mind, but I think she liked the halfs better when they weren’t highly medicated. Messing with them . . . was more fun that way.”
Her gaze dropped to our joined hands and lingered. “That . . . sounds terrible.”
“She was pretty terrible.”
Her shoulders rose with a deep breath and she lifted her gaze to mine. “You didn’t answer my question.”
Truth was, I’d never honestly answered that question a day in my life. I’d told Alex once that I hadn’t met my father and didn’t know his name. That had been a lie, and looking back I didn’t even know why I had lied about it. Then again, I lied about a lot of things back then. “I used to sit in my bedroom and watch him tend the flowers in the garden every afternoon, after lunch. From there he’d disappear out further on the grounds and I wouldn’t see him again until the next day. I didn’t know he was my father at that point, but maybe on some kind of weird biological level, I did, and that’s why I watched him.”
“Maybe,” she said, her gaze searching mine.
“I didn’t look like him. He was dark-haired and fair-skinned. I take after my mother.”
“She must’ve been beautiful.”
“She was.” Lifting Josie’s hand, I kissed the tip of her pinky and was pleased when the blue of her eyes deepened. “Most halfs were brought before the Council at a very young age to determine if they would train to be Sentinels or Guards or go into servitude. Not me. Everyone already knew what I would be.”
“Of course,” she murmured.
I grinned. “All the previous Apollyons’ eyes turned amber after they awakened. But I was born with them, so we always knew I was the Apollyon. I’d known that my father was a half long before it became common knowledge that was how an Apollyon could be made.” Which was another thing I had withheld from Alex. “I knew for a long time.”
She stepped closer, her bare feet brushing mine. “How did you find out?”
“He told me.”
Her eyes widened with surprise. “Seriously?”
“I was eleven. My mother had just dragged me out of my bedroom and paraded me through one of her many parties. She was very proud that her bastard son was the Apollyon, so that was quite regular. I was showed off, oohed and awed over, and then sent back to my room. That night was different, though.”
Josie’s brows knitted. “Why?”
Shifting, I lowered our hands so they hung between us. “I hadn’t gone straight to my bedroom like I normally did. I’d gone outside into this courtyard. I don’t even know why. Maybe it was fate.” Lifting my gaze to the towering house, I could see the bedroom window I spent the bulk of my time looking out of. “I’d sat on one of these benches, feeling quite miserable and most likely daydreaming about smashing all her precious statues inside when the man I often watched from the window approached me. I wasn’t particularly pleasant with him, but he didn’t seem to mind. He sat beside me, and he told me his name was Kristos.”
Josie was quiet as she stared up at me.
Something occurred to me and then I chuckled. “Gods. You know what his name means in Greek? The anointed. Fucking fate. Anyway, he told me the truth—that he was my father. I didn’t want to believe him at first. I liked the idea of my father being this . . . badass Sentinel and not this gardener. I know that’s wrong, but I was an ass as a kid.”
“Do tell,” she murmured.
My lips quirked. “I said some . . . pretty horrible things, because I was, well, like I said, an ass, and he didn’t seem to hold it against me. He’d been patient, even understanding of my attitude. I guess he’d known how things were in the house. He told me that he was proud of what I would become.” I laughed, and it sounded harsh to my own ears. “But he didn’t want that kind of life for his son.”
“Wow.” Her eyes were wide. “What else happened?”
“Well he left, and unbeknownst to us, we’d been spied upon. Mother had eyes and ears everywhere. She was none too pleased about all of it. She sent me to the Covenant in Britain the next day. I never saw him again.”